With just over 30 games left to play in the regular season there is something at stake in each clash for the runners and riders.

Following a prolonged international break due to India’s participation in the AFC Asian Cup, the Indian Super League returns later this week. Heading into the business end of the season, it’s a do-or-die scenario for multiple mid-table sides vying for a top-four place come March. Some big games will headline the first week of the ISL in 2019, with movement in the table assured after the action is over.

Be it bouts among the top-four candidates or those aiming to catch up with the runaway sides, entertainment is guaranteed in the league’s first week back. Fans who’ve been waiting patiently to see their sides come back to fight for the title, can expect some thrilling football over the course of January’s end. Here’s our preview for Gameweek 13 of the Indian Super League.

Kerala Blasters Vs ATK

Date & Venue: 25th January, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

With a new coach in Nelo Vingada at the helm, Kerala Blasters will start afresh after the break. A win is necessary for the coach to make a good impression and instil some hope into the dejected fans. ATK have also invested heavily on players, to push harder for a playoffs spot and will need to win in Kochi to keep up with the top teams.

These sides have met eleven times in the ISL, including twice in the final. ATK hold the advantage, having won five games to Kerala’s two. But, having lost in Kolkata in the opening game of the season, they’ll aim to exact revenge in Kochi.

The game will be the first big test for Nelo Vingada after his return to Indian Shores

Vingada will definitely make a few changes from how David James used to set his team up. The Blasters should play a more conventional four-man defence, in a possible 4-4-1-1. The former NorthEast United gaffer loves attacking football and will let the players enjoy themselves to impress the fans.

Steve Coppell will probably stick with the trustworthy 4-2-3-1 formation, but will make use of his new signings. Edu Garcia and Pritam Kotal should both start, while Miguel Palanca could also get some minutes. With their back four being solid, ATK will aim to prove their ability upfront and hope Garcia’s magic can help them play attractive football.

Seiminlen Doungel could benefit from the managerial change and will aim to continue his impressive form this season. Doungel could be allowed to play a bit more centrally by Vingada, from where he can threaten ATK with his movement and creativity.

Garcia will be the man to watch for ATK, as it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into their system. His ability on the wings can benefit Manuel Lanzarote and Co., while his trickery and goalscoring prowess also make him an asset for ATK.

NorthEast United Vs Chennaiyin FC

Date & Venue: 26th January, Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Guwahati.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

The Highlanders return to their fortress after a long gap and will aim to continue from where they left off. After enduring a bit of a slump, NorthEast United will want to turn up the heat at home and produce a dominant victory over Chennaiyin FC. The defending champions know they aren’t in contention for the playoffs anymore, so they’ll just want to enjoy themselves and prepare for the AFC Cup in March.

The Highlanders have prevailed over Chennaiyin five times in the nine occasions they’ve met. The defending champions have only won two, while the remaining two games have been stalemates.

While there won’t be much tinkering with the team, new signing Panagiotis Triadis could start for the Highlanders. They’ll operate in the 4-2-3-1 formation and continue to play incisive, attacking football and hope their majestic front-three can light up Guwahati once again.

CK Vineeth could make his debut for Chennaiyin, who should also play a 4-2-3-1 formation against the Highlanders. They’ll also miss Mailson Alves (suspension) which won’t do their shaky defensive record any good. However, Chennaiyin will aim to pull off an unlikely victory.

Bartholomew Ogbeche will seek to continue his surge towards the top of the goalscoring charts. After scoring a sensational hat-trick earlier this season against the same opposition, he’ll aim to produce a similar majestic performance to treat the fans to something special on Republic Day.

Jeje Lalpekhlua must’ve impressed coach John Gregory with his work in the AFC Asian Cup and should start. He’ll look to prove himself against the team from the hills. Jeje’s confidence seems to be back and the “Mizo Sniper” could soon be firing on all cylinders for the Marina Machans.

Mumbai City FC Vs Bengaluru FC

Date & Venue: 27th January/ Mumbai Football Arena.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

In the big battle between the top two, Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC have much to play for on Sunday. For the hosts, it’s a chance to leapfrog The Blues to the top of the ISL table. Meanwhile, Carlos Cuadret’s men will look to keep their winning run going and take a formidable lead over their closest rivals at the top.

Bengaluru have won twice in three meetings against Mumbai, with their last encounter being a thrilling draw.

This game will arguably be the most watched game in the league in the week

Jorge Costa will definitely stick with the team which thrashed Kerala Blasters 6-1 at the Mumbai Football Arena in their last home game. Mumbai seem to have found the perfect rhythm this season with a 4-3-3 formation. Costa’s effective tactics are allowing them to be solid defensively and menacing in attack, due to the pace and trickery of their frontmen.

Bengaluru welcome back Miku after the Venezuelan recovered during the international break. Cuadret will employ a 4-2-3-1 formation and hope their defensive shape is strong enough to hold out Mumbai. Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Udanta Singh will aim to work their magic in attack and gain another clinical away victory.

Arnold Issoko can create big problems for The Blues, who don’t have a conventional left-back currently. The Congolese winger has a bag of tricks in his arsenal, with his pace troubling the staunchest of defences. He’ll look to take advantage of the situation and create some chances on Sunday.

Miku returns in perfect time for Bengaluru. Having fallen off the top goalscorers’ list, he’ll look to bounce back at the business end of the campaign.

FC Goa Vs Jamshedpur FC

Date & Venue: 28th January/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa.

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

FC Goa aim to pick up from where they left off and facing playoff rivals Jamshedpur FC, they’ll need to play with similar intensity. The Gaurs need a  win to keep up with those above them, while Jamshedpur face a similar problem. It’s a must-win game against The Gaurs, whom they can overlap and break into the playoff positions right after the break.

Goa have defeated Jamshedpur twice, while the Men of Steel were victorious with a dominant 4-1 success over the Gaurs earlier this season.

While Sergio Lobera won’t make many changes, Zaid Crouch could get his debut on Monday. He’ll operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation and hope his scintillating front-four can exact sweet revenge against the Men of Steel, for their loss earlier this term. A big win can do all the good for Goa’s confidence.

Jamshedpur will miss both Carlos Calvo and Michael Soosairaj due to suspension and injury respectively, but still boast a talented bunch to trouble Goa. They’ll go with a 4-2-3-1 formation as well, with Aussie legend Tim Cahill leading the line and hoping to add to his tally of goals.

Edu Bedia was on song in Goa’s thrashing of NorthEast last month and after a long layoff, will hope to hit the ground running. A creative midfielder with an eye for goal, he’ll be a menace for Jamshedpur with his movement and lethal touch in the final third.

Cahill will also aim to start the post-break period strongly. Facing an inexperienced defence, he will use his expertise in the box and striking ability to trouble the home side and win his team three vital points.

Bengaluru FC Vs NorthEast United

Date & Venue: 30th January/ Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

The games keep on coming for Bengaluru, who host the unpredictable NorthEast in their first game back at the Kanteerava Stadium. If they’re to maintain their reign at the top spot, The Blues will have to fight hard for the win. The Highlanders have enjoyed prolific form away from home and will use that to oust the Blues.

Bengaluru have defeated NorthEast United twice in three meetings, with their last encounter being a 1-1 draw in Guwahati.

The Blues will be looking forward to registering their first win against the Highlanders in the season

The hosts should persist with the 4-2-3-1 formation, which has helped them stay undefeated this season. Bengaluru tend to turn on the style at the Kanteerava and against the topsy-turvy defence of the Highlanders, they’ll pile on the pressure to entertain their fans after a long gap.

NorthEast United should also continue with a similar formation, but will need to be more alert defensively to keep out Bengaluru. They’ll have to be efficient on the counter and agile at the back to contain The Blues and get any points from Bengaluru.

Chhetri will probably get a hero’s welcome after his heroics in the Asian Cup and will aim to thank his supporters the right way. The forward will use his intelligence in and around the penalty area to trouble the Highlanders and get back to scoring goals at home.

Federico Gallego’s been the creative lynchpin for NorthEast this season. If the Highlanders are to break open Bengaluru’s defence, he’ll need to weave his magic in the final third and feed balls into promising areas. The hosts need to be wary of his threat, as Gallego can create goals out of nothing.


Delhi Dynamos Vs Kerala Blasters

Date & Venue: 31st January/ Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi

Time & Broadcast: 07:30 PM/ Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD & Hotstar

After recording their first win of the season, Delhi Dynamos’ return home brings a source of excitement for their fans. The Dynamos will aim to finally get their first home win and possibly go above Kerala Blasters in the table. However, the Blasters will aim to mount their own turnaround, capitalizing on Delhi’s poor home show and sneaking in a cunning win to move upwards themselves.

The Yellow Army pips the Lions in head-to-head competition, having won four games in their eleven meetings. The Dynamos have won three, while the others have been drawn.

Ulises Davila will be the man to watch on his debut for the Dynamos

Despite losing Lallianzuala Chhangte to Viking FK, Delhi Dynamos still boast a formidable attack and will employ the 4-2-3-1 formation. Josep Gombau’s attacking style has topsy-turvy effects, but the impressive way he’s making them move forward with incisive passes, could make for a lot of entertainment for the Delhi faithful against Kerala.

Vingada should persist with the same 4-1-4-1 formation but could revert to a more counter-attacking style of football. He’ll need his defence to be rock-solid to keep out the dangerous Dynamos and for the attack to be clinical in order to get a win.

New signing Ulises Davila will be the man to watch on his debut for the Dynamos. An exciting winger, he’ll definitely spark up Delhi’s attack and create chances with his ability. Davila’s experience will definitely elevate the capital team’s attack and cause big problems for the Blasters.

Having only scored twice this season, Matej Poplatnik has a lot to prove under Vingada. His ability in the final third is well-known and the striker will aim to use his physical superiority as well as creativity in around the penalty area to cause big problems to Delhi’s shaky defence.